Jennifer Egan on Patti Smith…

A great essay in the The Guardian. It’s funny how much it mirrors the scene in Just Kids when Patti sees Jim Morrison for the first time in New York and realizes she should be on stage too.

There was a soundtrack to all this: Patti Smith. After school, the three of us lay side by side on the greyish-white wall-to-wall carpeting in V’s living room, and listened to Patti sing. We knew every note, every phrase; we sang along, and in the course of our school day, we muttered lines to each other:

“He merged perfectly. With the mirror. In the hallway.”

“The boy looked at Johnny. Johnny wanted to run but the movie kept moving as planned…”

And so on, until Johnny is raped by the second boy, who may or may not be Johnny’s own reflection, and a throng of imaginary horses is unleashed. Patti heaved up these horses from somewhere in her chest. She panted them out. She was doing more than singing – she was showing us a way to be in the world: fragile but tough, beautiful and ugly, corrupt and innocent.

There was a debate this weekend – my friend, Ben, thinks that Patti was inspired by Morrison’s performance, whereas when I read Just Kids, I thought she meant, “bah, I can do this. This isn’t rocket science. If this guy can do it, I sure as shit can,” kind of like when I read a Dan Brown novel for the first time. I guess I will have to re-read the book.


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